As awesome as Dungeons and Dragons can be, finding enough players for a session can be a real hassle. Optimally, a game master would be able to obtain three players (at least) on a consistent basis. This is a lot harder than it sounds…so an alternative must be sought. And so an alternative was found: Evil Hat’s Fate Core. It only needs two players and encourages a more collaborative co-operation among players and the game master. Ideally, every game system encourages the latter but Fate is unique in how easy the game is to pick up and play.
The first step with any game of Fate is world-building. Players and the GM have to figure out what sort of game they’re playing, what the world’s like and flesh it out a bit. Along with character creation, this can be time consuming but not necessarily. If everyone wishes to play a zombie apocalypse game based off the Walking Dead setting, all the world-building work has been taken care of.
The advantage Fate has over, say, D&D is how much of a collaborative exercise it is. With D&D, players have to worry about roles and the stamp they leave upon the world can be very limited (doubly so if this is an established setting like Forgotten Realms or Eberron). Fate, by design, encourages ingenuity and the player-generated input encourages them to feel involved and attached to something they had a hand in creating.
Our world-building exercise took only a few minutes. What they came up with was a science-fantasy post-apocalypse setting. It’s been 200 years since the Earth blew up but the planet was not totally destroyed. Somehow, the remaining bits of the Earth now float together in harmony (think an asteroid belt). These “planetoids” now house human settlers who mine for minerals and, on a few, scavenge what ruins still exist.
Our players mine the innards of their home planetoid with space rednecks. Space Foreman Brannigan is their boss, who overworks them as much as he can (for reasons to be revealed in character creation). Space Town is under the governing jurisdiction of Space Mayor Calrissian. The only contact each planetoid has with another is through the Chinese space traders, who are the only legal source of galactic trade between what remains of the earth and the settler’s homelands.
Players being space miners can be interesting (in a sort of classic D&D dungeon crawl kind of way) but they need some sort of conflict. The group generates their own conflict(s) with Fate Accelerated’s two easy questions: (1) What’s the bad guy’s plan and (2) what’s an issue the players can’t ignore? Our players decided Biff Tannen’s gang of space rednecks were going to to take over Space Town and the issue they couldn’t ignore was that none of the earth’s planetoids had a breathable atmosphere. This latter point requires everyone to wear a space suit.
Character creation in Fate is less about assigning numerical values to attributes/skills and more about what characteristics they have that make the story flow Each character comes up with a name, appearance, purpose, a trouble that complicates their life and some traits that make that person unique. What we ended up with is our three players deciding they were a band, people who played music to escape the drudgery of working in the mines. The authority figures within Space Town disapprove of their dubstep rock band and devise means to keep them from playing as much as possible. The band’s name? With The. It’s a genius marketing ploy.
This was a one-shot session so I don’t have the character sheets they made, so what the players came up with is solely off memory. The only things about Nick’s character I remember was that he had an unreliable iron lung (which allowed him to breathe without a space suit but it would act up and give him coughing fits most of the time), that he had an incredibly long name that included Level 70 Bard and his musical instrument was a double-necked guitar that could play both bass and lead guitar parts. Steve’s character’s entire purpose was to use his dubstep gun (which doubled as his instrument) to bring dubstep rock to the rest of the galaxy. The only thing preventing him from doing so was his rampant alcoholism. Dustin was the vocalist extremely loyal to the band and his complication was his OCD.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH
To start, our players decided to neglect the threat Biff’s space gang posed to Space Town and decided to address the earth’s lacking atmosphere. Chinese space traders contracted them with a mission to use their band’s awesome music (they had heard a demo tape) to restore the earth’s atmosphere…through the power of rock! The band agreed but lacked the proper tools to do such a thing (mainly amps large enough to propagate sound on a planetary scale). So they decide to journey through the remnants of the earth to find a ruined record store. From there, they could scavenge some amp parts and/or use Dustin’s ingenuity to construct new ones.
After a bit of searching (and a misadventure in trying to pilot their ship through the asteroid thicket), the band finds a ruined record store that’s currently being picked over by Biff’s space redneck gang. The players actually get Biff to leave without beating the crap out of them, although Biff swears to get even with the party at some point. They pick through the store, searching for amps (or parts to them) that they could use…and come up with only broken ones. Some time is spent by Dustin jury-rigging some new amps while Nick and Steve decide where to hold this epic rock concert that will restore the earth’s atmosphere.
The players decide that the center of the earth would be the best place to rock out. They journey there, using Steve’s dubstep gun to maneuver through the planetoids. Once at their destination, they begin to set-up the stage and perform sound checks. Much of the next few minutes are the band member’s personalities clashing with each other (Nick and Steve are very forceful, flashy brutes…whereas Dustin’s a more careful and clever sort). Eventually, the time comes for the concert but our band has no audience! Steve’s dubstep gun is used to send the concert fliers (which are written on bills of money they obtained from Chinese space traders as advance payment) to all populated planetoids in order to attract a crowd worthy of what is to be an epic performance.
An audience gathers and the band is set to perform! Nick leads off with his trademark guitar solo…but all the smoke from the pyrotechnics (and the people in the crowd) causes his iron lung to act up! Dustin and Steve cover up Nick’s shaky performance, with Dustin invoking his loyalty aspect to aid Nick’s playing. Nick works through his iron lung complication and the band puts on the finest rock concert the earth’s seen in 200 years.
Unfortunately, trouble shows up in the form of Biff Tannen’s space redneck gang! Having conquered Space Town, he has turned the planetoid the town rests upon into his own personal transportation. He sends Space Foreman Brannigan and some henchmen to arrest the PCs for neglecting their mining duties. Steve’s dubstep gun blows them all off the stage.
Biff sees how this showdown is going to have to be: a musical duel between two bands of opposing types! On one hand, we have our heroes, the dubstep rock band With The. Opposing them is Biff’s space redneck bluegrass band (since bluegrass was determined to be the opposite of dubstep rock). What followed was a series of one vs. one instrumental duels, a vocalist challenge and each band trying to interrupt the other’s playing when Biff’s band started to sense they were going to lose…all with the restoration of the earth’s atmosphere in the balance! Biff’s band consisted of violent rednecks not well-suited to a musical challenge…and the band With The trounces them with only minor difficulty (mainly Steve having to take a break to get a beer when he should have been playing dubstep and having Dustin cover for him).
Biff Tannen’s space gang and Space Town meet the same fate as Space Foreman Brannigan: Being blasted off into space by Steve’s dubstep gun! This caps off an epic concert that sees the earth’s atmosphere fully restored! People at the concert take off their space suits and are able to breathe the same air their ancestors did over 200 years ago! People everywhere else wonder if their space suits are malfunctioning…until they hear news of the concert and then realize those suits were telling the truth!
When our heroes aren’t being mobbed by their new legion of fans, they take time off to do the little things they enjoy. Like, growing wheat (Steve), signing the midriffs of female fans (Nick) and working on the next album (Dustin). They rest easy, unaware of the dangers that await them in future adventures. Biff Tannen and his space redneck gang are still out there, plotting their revenge. The musical style that restored the earth’s atmosphere will bring many pretenders and challengers to the band. And that’s nothing to say of the other challenges that lay out in the vast unknown of space…but our players were fine with this being a one-off session so we’ll say they lived happily ever after!